Traditional Irish Music Photography

The West Clare town of Miltown Malbay and its environs becomes a hive of music, song and dance during the Willie Clancy Summer School and everywhere you look there's music being played. Classes are held in the schools, private living rooms, GAA dressing rooms, a large marquee tent, pubs, hotels, wherever the organisers can find to place students and teachers. Recitals and lectures take place in the Community Centre which is the administrative hub of the School. It is a great gathering of thousands of musicians, some of which are the most renowned in traditional Irish music and it attracts people from all over the world who come to learn from the masters. I have attempted to convey, in my photographs, the great range of instruments, teachers and students that attend the School each year.


The social aspect of music making is hugely important , of course, and there are many sessions in pubs, houses and on the streets of Miltown. The great music pubs, Queally's, Gleeson's of Coore, Fahy's, Hennessy's, Cleary's (Ennis Road), Conway's and D'Arcy's of Mullagh, are all sadly closed now but many photos from these places feature on the site. Friel's, Hillery's, Cleary's (The Blondes) and others are still going strong.


I have also made musicians endure sitting for formal portraits usually after they have been through the nerve wrecking experience of playing solo in an evening recital.


Over the years I have used Leica M4 & M6 35mm and Rolleiflex medium format film cameras shooting on Kodak Tri-X black & white film and Kodak colour slide film. Now I use a Leica M-E digital camera.


I wish to thank the Ó Rócháin family, Harry Hughes, Eamon McGivney, Nicholas Carolan and Treasa Harkin at the Irish Traditional Music Archive, Terry Moylan, Gay McKeon, Gerry Lyons and Emmett Gill of Na Píobairí Uilleann, the Kelly, Potts and O'Connor (particularly Mick O'Connor) families, Angela Casey, Jenneine Rowley, Jim Gilroy, Deirdre Comber, Kieran Vaughan, the School staff, and all the many musicians and lovers of the music who have encouraged me and gone out of their way to give me assistance during the past two decades.


All images and content copyright © Tony Kearns except where stated otherwise.